Cat behavior problems
Cat behavior problems: Unacceptable behavior—such as inappropriate scratching or soiling, or displays of aggression—needs investigating. It may be a sign that a cat has problems affecting his welfare and possibly his physical health.
(A) Litter box problem
Litter box problem is the most common cat behavior problems. And it is the most common complaint people have about their cats and. Eliminating outside the box can be a behavior problem, but it can also be a physical problem. Sometimes, it’s a combination of both. Often, there are a lot of different issues, so it isn’t really possible to pinpoint a single cause.
There can be almost as many reasons for house soiling as there are cats who do it. Perhaps something happened to frighten kitty when she was in the box. If another cat didn’t startle her, then someone may have dropped something that made a loud noise, and she now associates that with eliminating in the box.
Think back and try to remember if anything unusual happened around the time she stopped using her litter box. Often, you’re not aware of what happened—it may even have been a loud noise outside when you were out of the house.
There may have been an upset in her routine or there may have been some sort of household stress that she has picked up on. These, too, can cause litter box issues.
Litter Box Retraining
If you’ve encountered litter box problems, even after you resolve the problem you may find that you need to retrain kitty to use the box. Here’s how to do it.
- Never ever yell at or punish your cat. All that will do is make her afraid, and that will only make the problem much, much worse.
- Put a brand-new litter box in a nice, quiet spot so kitty can have her privacy. The box needs to be easily accessible, both in where it’s located and in kitty’s ability to get in and out. Be sure the box is not near her food or water.
- Look carefully to be sure the place where you put the box hasn’t been previously marked by a cat. If it has, use something that removes the urine odor, not something that just masks the smell for you. Kitty can still smell it!
- Put about two or three inches of litter in the box. She’s not building sandcastles, so more than that isn’t necessary.
- Keep an eye on the box and praise kitty lavishly when she uses it.
The 2nd one of the most common cat behavior problems is scratching. Cats scratch objects for two reasons: to maintain good claw condition and for communication.
They prefer tall, sturdy objects with a vertical texture—and, unfortunately, your sofa may meet these criteria. Cats can also learn that scratching furniture attracts more attention from an owner than using a scratching post does.
If your cat scratches in areas of potential conflict with other cats, such as doorways and windows, it is likely that he is leaving marks for communicative reasons, because he feels insecure there. When he is scratching furniture, you must try to identify what is worrying him and find a remedy.
- To discourage a cat from scratching, cover the damaged surface with thick plastic sheeting and place a scratching post beside it.
- Put tasty treats on the post and make a fuss over your cat when he uses it.
- Once he is consistently using the post, gradually move it to a more convenient location.
(C) Inappropriate soiling
The 3rd one of the most common cat behavior problems is Inappropriate soiling. Cats prefer to urinate and defecate in quiet, secluded locations and usually return to the same site unless it becomes unacceptable or inaccessible.
For example, your cat may stop using his litter tray if it is in a noisy environment, can be disturbed by children or other pets, is too close to feeding or resting areas, is blocked by another cat, or if the type of litter has been changed.
He may also be deterred by strong smells of urine if the tray has a cover or is not cleaned regularly. A change in litter tray habits can sometimes be a sign of a medical problem.
- You must also determine whether your cat is relieving himself or urine-marking.
- Cats urine-mark in areas of conflict; therefore, any social or environmental issues must be addressed.
- Ensure that there is one tray per cat, plus one extra tray.
- Clean soiled areas thoroughly using a safe biological agent, avoiding ammonia or other strong-smelling chemicals.
(D) Rough Play
The 4th one of the most common cat behavior problems is rough play.
- The responsibility for being bitten or scratched during play with kittens and cats almost always falls on the humans. Never encourage rough play by swatting the cat with your hands or using hands, feet, or other body parts as toys.
- Instead, watch how cats play with other cats and encourage the chase, pounce, and bite behaviors you see by using toys that keep your hands well away from the cat.
- Interaction should be fun, aerobic, intellectual, challenging, and safe for everyone. If that’s not the case, you’re playing too roughly with your cat, and your cat is responding the only way she knows how.
- While we’re talking about bites, you should also watch for the “I’ve had enough” bite when you’re petting your kitty. Cats love petting but eventually get to a point where they want you to stop.
- They give you signals to stop, but if you don’t notice and heed those signals and keep petting beyond a cat’s level of tolerance, you’ll get bitten. It will be a mild bite but will state unequivocally, “I told you to stop and I meant it!”
The 5th one of the most common cat behavior problems is the aggression. Signals of aggression include staring, hissing, spitting, scratching, and biting. In most cases the cat has learned that aggression is necessary or effective.
It is “normal” for cats to show an aggressive response, for example, if they feel threatened and are unable to escape. Aggression can also be a sign of health issues, so have your cat checked by a vet if he shows uncharacteristic behavior.
1. aggression toward people
The two main reasons for a cat’s aggression toward people are fear and uninhibited play. Aggression used as a defense strategy by a frightened cat usually develops through poor socialization or a negative experience.
If your cat shows signs of fear, do not try to interact with him or approach him directly. Instead, wait until he approaches you and gradually build up his confidence by using food or a toy as a reward for learning to trust you.
Aggressive play can include attacking people by grabbing them with claws and biting. High-pitched sounds or sudden movement, such as passing feet, may trigger this reaction, which generally develops through inappropriate play behavior being permitted in kittens.
- Don’t encourage kittens to pounce on your hands and feet. Aggressive play may also be reinforced by the “victim’s” reaction—movement and noise are an invitation to further attacks and stimulate predatory instincts.
- Instead of responding to ambushes, ignore your cat; stay still and do not talk to or even look at him.
- Use your attention as a reward when he joins in a game without making you the target of his teeth and claws.
2. Aggression toward other cats
Aggression toward other cats is related to stress caused by a perceived, or real, threat to security. Because of their limited social communication skills, cats find it difficult to resolve conflict.
Consequently, where cats cannot easily avoid other cats—for example, when they have to share a cat flap—they may fight. Squabbles in the house can be avoided by providing each cat, or social group of cats, with necessary resources in separate areas where they will not meet.
- If your cat is fighting with neighboring cats, speak to the other owners about time-sharing, so that your cats go outside at different times and never meet.
- Also, provide plenty of cover in your garden so that your cat can hide and feel more secure.
(F) Climbing on people
The 6th one of the most common cat behavior problems is climbing on people. This is most often a kitten behavior, with little claws digging into your leg as the kitten tries to climb on you. There are at least three reasons this could be happening:
- She may want something from you, such as food or attention;
- she may have been taken away from her litter too young and not had the opportunity to learn appropriate social skills;
- she may have a dominant personality that has not been held in check.
1- How to Stop a Climbing Kitten
When she is still young you can cure her of this obnoxious habit by grasping her by the scruff of her neck and pulling her off you. Hold her up by the scruff and say “No!” firmly, then put her down and walk away, ignoring her.
2- How to Stop a Climbing Cat
- You cannot use the scruff-of-the-neck method with a grown cat because she may react aggressively and bite or scratch you.
- Usually only kittens will accept being lifted by the back of their necks because it was only recently that their mothers did the same thing.
- When an adult cat climbs on you, you want to make it a very unpleasant experience by saying “No!” and whirling around as fast as you can, or by jumping up and down to dislodge her.
- The cat will fall off or be thrown off by the force of your movements, and it will only take one or two of these energetic jostlings on your part to cure a cat of using you as a climbing post.
(G) Chewing or Licking Odd Things
The 7th one of the most common cat behavior problems is chewing or licking odd things. Cats have an acute sense of smell, and when something has an intriguing smell they want to taste it—even something as apparently unappealing as a plastic grocery bag.
Plastic bags bring into the house with them the odor of where they have been or what they have had in them—which in the case of a grocery bag could be many different things.
Even the bags themselves might have an intriguing odor, from the volatile chemicals that are used to make flexible plastics such as those shopping bags.
Some of the other items that cats lick and which seem less than appetizing to us are things such as photographic film, photos and electric cords. Cats’ appetites for these things are quite individual because what appeals to one cat may hold no interest for others.
Licking poses no danger, generally speaking, but obviously it would be a serious problem if a cat licked a plastic bag and then proceeded to eat it, since it would obstruct her digestive tract.
- When a cat is chewing something bizarre such as a plastic bag there are a couple of things to determine whether this is a sign of an underlying problem. If the cat is simply curious about the plastic bag, she will check it out and then drop it, and that’s acceptable curiosity.
- But if she constantly chews and sucks on many different items and for long periods of time, the question is whether this represents an obsessive-compulsive disorder.
- The other concern is whether the craving to chew and lick comes from a dietary craving for something missing in her food.
- Although researchers have not been able to identify a vitamin deficiency in cats who lick and chew (which might have been an explanation for the desire to taste strange items), you have nothing to lose by planting some kitty grass for her so she has something really satisfying and nutritious to nibble on instead.
The 8th one of the most common cat behavior problems is the fear. Any of the stressors mentioned in this article can cause a fear reaction in a cat. Fear itself can also cause stress. A fearful cat will display any number of the signs of stress already mentioned. Often a fearful cat will show aggression toward another cat, or even her owner.
A frightened cat will hide and, if forced to come out, will show her reluctance by attacking. Displaced aggression can result with lesser cats in the pecking order, who may grow fearful if the top cat is bullying or intimidating.
- Calming the fearful cat will require patience and understanding. In severe cases, a feline behaviorist can be called in to help solve the problem (as well as other behavioral problems and stressors).
- Speak with your veterinarian about possible medications and treatments to calm the cat’s nerves, as well. But remember that medication is, at best, a short-term solution; directly addressing your cat’s fear and stress is the long-term answer.
What to do if your cat has one of the behavior problems
- Have your cat’s health checked by a vet to rule out underlying medical problems
- Try to find out what first initiated the behavior, and identify factors that trigger it now
- If possible, protect your cat from the triggering factors
- Never punish your cat for inappropriate behavior or give him attention for it
- Redirect normal cat behavior, such as scratching, onto more appropriate targets
- Ask your vet to refer you to a qualified and experienced feline behavior expert
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